TRUST

"Just as Americans in general do not have the habits of deference, so the conservative in America does not have them either. Ultimately he does not defer even to the country’s institutions. If one of these institutions, such as the Supreme Court, makes decisions he detests, he will defame that institution. He is as ready as is the common man to bypass the institutions he ought to defend."

Recently in my public opinion course we've talked about the substantial research detailing the precipitous decline in levels of trust in the government in the United States. Data from the Pew Center and the National Election Studies illustrate this point quite clearly:

When I see this data many potential explanations come to mind – researchers usually identify the end of post-War prosperity around 1970, the Vietnam War, and Watergate as primary culprits – but I always think of the quote at the beginning of the post. It is from British conservative Henry Fairlie. He wrote it in 1980 at the Republican National Convention in Detroit as he watched the dumbing-down of the American right culminate with the nomination of a B-movie actor turned Goldwater acolyte turned soft-seller of neoconservatism.

I've made the following point many times previously, but the American right used to have an image problem. They still do, of course, but it is a very different one today. Prior to Reagan, the stereotype of American conservatism was a handful of wealthy white men in tuxedos sitting around a country club drinking expensive cognac. It was snooty. It was elitist. It had unshakable faith in the fundamental goodness of our nation and its institutions. Fairlie was prescient in noting how rapidly this would change with the ascension of the Hero of the Common Man – "common", in reference to voters, inevitably meaning "stupid." The party of East Coast industrialists became the party of yokels, rubes, creationists, xenophobes, and assorted other knuckle-headed bottom dwellers in this vast country. They still have an image problem, but now it is that the word "conservative" conjures images of Glenn Beck and some Teabagger screaming idiocies through clenched teeth while holding a misspelled sign.

It certainly can't be the fault of the right alone that trust has fallen so dramatically over the last three decades, but Fairlie identified the reasons why they shoulder a good deal of the blame. I'm not British enough to use a word like "deference" to describe their problem. It is more accurate to say that they lack any respect at all for our institutions and have gone far out of their way to convince Americans that if the government is not doing exactly what you want at all times, then the system has failed and it becomes a legitimate target for torrents of seething rage.

If the government spends money on something that does not directly benefit you, then taxes are evil. If your candidate loses an election, elections are ACORN-choreographed frauds. If Congress passes a law you do not like, then Congress is an illegitimate institution and your Governor should start talking about secession. If someone interprets the Constitution differently than you do, then the Constitution is being shredded by traitors and socialists. If a person who does not look like you becomes president, then he must be a foreign usurper. And of course one's faith in all of these same institutions is restored and manifests itself with great enthusiasm as soon as things are back to the way you want them.

Our country is worse off, in short, because of the right's "southern strategy" of appealing to the lowest, basest instincts of the masses, vilifying the very institutions they hope to control. It is not a coincidence that we hear the word "secession" every time they are out of power, because any institution that displeases them is slandered as illegitimate. I do not expect that we can recover the level of "Gee Ain't America Great!" sentiment that existed in the 1950s, but it would be nice if American conservatism would stop working quite so diligently to convince the public that it is not only acceptable but also one's duty to profane our system of government every time it acts contrary to the wishes of the average rural Texan.

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31 Responses to “TRUST”

  1. Crazy for Urban Planning Says:

    I have expressed these ideas and thoughts many times before. Isn't it a funny paradox that people who hate government as much as the average Republican politician even bothers running? If you hate it go of the grid – fuck it! Why not get your own generator and grow a nice garden in Lincoln, Montana? Why do they have to even bother poisoning my airwaves, newspapers, and magazines with regurgitated ideas? The answer is to make a buck and then privatize it so you can make your friends a buck, but the larger question is how much do they need? Is their a point where a person simply has too much wealth? I remember when Brian Lamb was still hosting the C-Span programs he interviewed George Soros once, Lamb asked if it was ethical for someone to have as much money as Soros does! Soros talked about the good work he does in Eastern Europe and Central Asia via the Open Society (encouraging development and grants much like the US Foreign Policy would if the Jews didn't control it). Anyway – I am rambling here.

  2. ladiesbane Says:

    What irks me most is the hypocrisy of a movement that has tried to portray itself as the Good Ol' Days Christian Family Values crew, little saints and angels of the truest moral compass — and who behave in a deliberately graceless, crude, vain, disrespectful manner, from Jesse Helms singing "Dixie" to Carol Moseley Braun, to the GOPAC Newtspeak memo, to all the smug, insincere bloviation of the Fox commentators. After lining their pockets, their highest priorities are keeping down anyone not straight, white, Christian, and preferably male.

  3. Zeb Says:

    I've never understood how a coherent political party can be composed principally of American Taliban, pro-corporate-welfare-anti-tax pseudo-libertarians, and Neo-Imperialist chickenhawks. These three elements seem so unstable in combination, and so improperly aligned, that I just don't see how the post-80's Republican party has survived this long– let alone how it will survive another decade.

    I can see, to some degree, how the US Taliban and Imperialists can work together… spreading Christianity/'Democracy'/American Values(tm) by the sword, ushering in the apocalypse by unconditionally backing Israel, etc. But how the hell do the ostensibly small-government Republitarians fit in?

    Maybe this is delusional, but I really wish we had a sane conservative party that would renounce its more nefarious branches and stick consistently to the Classical Liberal agenda. I wouldn't vote for it, but I would be inclined at least to take it seriously.

  4. beau Says:

    I blame Margaret Atwood. Motherfuckers seem to have read "The Handmaid's Tale"* and thought "Hey, that could work…"

    *or perhaps had someone read it to them.

  5. Stonecutter Says:

    Agreed, Zeb, it's quite an interesting combination, one can hardly help but reach the conclusion that the only glue holding these three seemingly diametrically opposed factions together is a shared enemy of the American Left, even if the reasons it perceives the left as its enemy differ.

  6. HoosierPoli Says:

    Thomas Frank does the best treatment of what you call "defamation" in his all-too-short The Wrecking Crew. Conservatives can defame government all they want because they plan on gutting it when elected. It enriches them personally AND benefits them politically. And the more they wreck government, the more they can say "Government doesn't work".

  7. Kulkuri Says:

    I'm with Crazy in that I can't understand why anyone who thinks government is the problem would ever want to be part of the government.
    I guess when you think the government is the problem and is robbing you by taxing you, once you are in office you don't have any qualms about looting the government coffers to enrich yourself and your like-minded friends!!

  8. Elder Futhark Says:

    Conservatives will not be satisfied until all government is at its lowest level of complexity – unicellular life.

  9. bb in GA Says:

    Intensity and numbers both count for something. What we have written here is (from the Right) viewed as instense. Your passion and hatred are evident. Y'all certainly don't need a majority if the intensity factor is high enough. Our original revolutionaries certainly consisted of no more than 1/3 of the population.

    If your numbers are high enough and you push hard in the short run, there will be blood. Although, I think you will need that civilian corps (or corpse as BHO says) that candidate Obama talked about that "is as well funded as the military." They will be the brown shirts to root out resisters. I don't think the National Guardsmen who I've known since he was 8 or the local Sheriff's deputy I've known forever is going to do that.

    The thing I don't understand about the Left is that your job has been done well. You captured Academia generations ago and you have almost all media on your side save Fox and talk radio. The resistance you face is mainly me (old and White) In a decade or two I (and my brothers and sisters) will be gone – burning forever if you get your wish.

    I think if you Lefties have any patience, the prize of complete and perpetual control is yours by 2030. If you slowly work the Amnesty issue – even sooner than that.

    I guess some of it is the arrogance of Youth, I dunno…

    //bb

  10. BK Says:

    bb – I am not even sure where to begin, but I will try here:

    1.) To say that Academia and the Media are all on the side of the left (save Fox and talk radio, which you didn't mention) is a bit far-fetched. I would love to see the study that demonstrates this liberal bias.

    2.) This fear mongering around the civilian corps is simply outstanding. Making them the equivalents of Nazis is wonderful theater, but once again, I would ask where you get your facts from on that one.

  11. bb in GA Says:

    BK

    I did mention Fox and talk radio:

    "…and you have almost all media on your side save Fox and talk radio."

    Other than that, you are absolutely right and I am full of shi-ite.

    //bb

  12. BK Says:

    bb – Sorry. You are correct. I re-read your post and you said talk radio.

  13. JohnR Says:

    So, both Madison and Jefferson were wrong in the end. We have to choose between being governed by the cool, thoughtful heads of the Enron/Goldman Sachs nobility or the sturdy, common-sensical agrarian Tea Partiers. We're hosed.
    Once again the nattering nabobs of negativity (Beck, Limbaugh and that bunch) are driving the wild-eyed radicals to take the country away from the Silent Majority. Too bad this time, the radicals have the big money and most of the power brokers behind them.

  14. bb in GA Says:

    John R:

    I think you are selling your side short.

    The money power era is coming to an end when their paper system collapses.

    The reformation of what's left will be Left. (perhaps Totalitarian Left in the worst case)

    If y'all can get the military to hold steady during the collapse and transition time, I think enough of America is either Leftist indoctrinated or "I-don't-care" enough to assure your success.

    I recognize that the polls have been pretty consistent that only 20% of the pop is Liberal. Borrowing from what was it "1984"? if the Proles make up enough of the population, y'all have it covered.

    If this happens in the short run, you will have to kill some of us unreconstructed, but hey to quote a famous Leftist "If you wanna make an omelet, you gotta break some eggs."

    //bb

  15. ladiesbane Says:

    bb, while it's canny of you to talk about your own points rather than the blogger's, I have to wonder where your Silent Majority was during the election. If only 20% is Left, where the hell was the Right?

    But I would like to hear any Right-wing defense you may have of the GOP's policy of mudslinging hostility, which is leading the charge down the toilet in terms of morale. Democrats talk about ideas, and Republicans talk about Democrats. Please be specific in examples of anything the Left has used that is as deliberately destructive as the plan of action Newt set in play with his memo, "Language: A Key Mechanism of Control."

  16. Entomologista Says:

    I blame Margaret Atwood. Motherfuckers seem to have read "The Handmaid's Tale"* and thought "Hey, that could work

  17. Entomologista Says:

    Sigh. html fail.

    The rest of the comment should read:

    I blame Upton Sinclair. They read "The Jungle" and thought it was an instruction manual.

  18. VALIS Says:

    Hey, Mr Gin and Tacos,
    Why do hate America by loving America?!

  19. moonbat Says:

    You've given me another level of appreciation for the phrase "southern strategy". It's much more than about race.

    Conservatives will not be satisfied until all government is at its lowest level of complexity – unicellular life.

    Government is an extension of who we are as individuals. Conservatives typically cannot see past the end of their noses, and so their goal is to reduce the complexity of government down to their own individually myopic childish level.

  20. bb in GA Says:

    ladiesbane:

    If you are gigging me for not sticking to "Trust," the eight posts before my first spent most of their time ripping on Rs or Conservatives. Why U pickin' on me huh?

    Anyway, I'm not very canny. I have carefully studied Left wingers who appear on talk shows (usually on Fox) where they straight ahead dodge simple questions like "Would you agree that the sky usually appears blue?"and ramble on with their talking points rudely interrupting anyone in their wake. At least I'm not jammin' anyone's xmission in this medium.

    And now for something completely different, I will attempt to answer one of your questions. The political taxonomy of the American Public has shifted only slightly over the past few decades. Americans self identify pretty much this way:

    Liberal 20%
    Conservative 40%
    Moderate 40%

    The Conservatives and the Mods have swapped points over time such that the Moderates are sometimes about 45% with the Conservatives at about 35% The Libs have rocked along at about 20% for several decades.

    Where was the Right recently? First, don't conflate Right == Republican. Second I think Mr O did a better job than Senator McGoo in convincing more Moderates to vote for him. Obviously, 100% solid support for McGoo from Conservatives (some of whom are Ds) would not get him the promotion.

    Real recently, the Rs more heavily supported by Cs won in Virginia, NJ, and the dynastic Kennedy seat in Tax-uh-chusetts.

    Please spare me lectures on propaganda a la Speaker Grinch. The Left invented modern day wordsmithing to jerk people around. Marx, Woodrow Wilson and his hired soap box men, Lenin, Goebbels (who credited Wilson), and dare I leave out Serious Saul Alinsky.

    I think it is a straw dog that nobody on the Right discusses issues. We talk past one another becasue we can't even agree on the shape of the conference table. It's sort of like Protestants and Catholics arguing. The Prot says "Well, the Bible says…blah blah" and the Catholic says "Well the church teaches blah blah…"

    I still think y'all are in a good position overall. I'm hearing rumblings again of Statehood for Puerto Rico and D.C. Tha'd be 4 "People of Color" TM added to the Senate as Ds and 6 or 7 Reps same same. I take back 2030. How 'bout 2016 for complete and perpetual rule by the Ds if y'all don't screw it up.

    //bb

  21. ladiesbane Says:

    Oh, bb, I don't mean to pick on you — this is just one of my pet topics, and there's not much conversation with people in total agreement. But don't you think there's a difference between propaganda for purposes of national morale in time of war, and ad hominem attacks on groups of other Americans? The latter part is what bothers me most, especially given that the Right seems to see itself as a party of patriots, and equates dissent with treason. How patriotic can it be to dismiss so many Americans so absolutely?

    The token auslander on any current events show, facing a wall of the opposite party, is going to be defensive and reactionary. When each side assumes basic postulates the other side is not willing to stipulate, conversation can't move forward. But for as many people as there are who call themselves moderates or centrists, we still have to vote in a two-party system. The parties don't mean what they used to, and labels are misleading. But I am tired of being called names, and particularly tired of being called inaccurate names. Ultimately, I would like people to recall, at the end of the day, that we are all Americans.

    Lefties tend to reject me for my patriotism, and the Right rejects me for trying to be inclusive. I don't know what I get to call myself. But Rush calls me a Feminazi, and I'm never going to cuddle up to someone who dismisses me with a rude epithet.

  22. moonbat Says:

    @bb wrote:

    Americans self identify pretty much this way:

    Liberal 20%
    Conservative 40%
    Moderate 40%

    This is superficial. When you probe deeper, Americans tend to prefer liberal positions, by numbers much greater than these, even if they call themselves something other than liberal. I don't have a linky for you (too lazy to search), but don't be fooled by labels (and superficial conservative "thinking").

  23. Steve from Canada Says:

    From my point of view, the U.S. doesn't really have a left wing. There are people I would consider slightly right of center (Democrats), then so-called "moderates" who are mostly just selfish and ignorant but also further to the right, and finally the preposterous assholes who should be mulched for pet food.

    I guess from their point of view, Canada doesn't really have a right wing …

    I wanna go home.

  24. bb in GA Says:

    Steve:

    You can put me on the preposterous asshole list, but I find your murderous mulching is a type of terroristic threat. If you show up in GA be forewarned that we mulch back. We consider Canadians as Yankees on steroids – so watch out, EH?

    //bb

  25. bb in GA Says:

    Mr or Miz bat:

    Yeah I guess those people who tend to favor Liberal positions who don't identify themselves as Libs would be….Moderates? While people who identify with Conservative positions while not id-ing themselves as Conservatives would be…Moderates?

    I apologize for my superficiality and shallowness and wouldn't y'all consider conservative thinking an oxymoron?

    Yes, yes the Ubermenschen are here bb, bow and scrape etc.

    //bb

  26. Steve from Canada Says:

    Show up in Georgia? I've passed through the Atlanta airport once or twice, but not on purpose.

  27. What's in a name? Says:

    This is what passes for political discourse in 2010.

    The moment one equates American, centrist liberalism with true, revolutionary leftism and in the same breath totalitarianism or Joseph Goebbles with Saul Alinsky you are no longer even so much as treading rhetorical water.

    As to the convoluted idea that those who favor left positions without self-identifying as liberal are automatically "moderates," I call nonsense.

    Coming from a state to the immediate north of our token right-winger and as someone who makes the study of society their career, the vast majority of people I encounter on a daily basis unabashedly call themselves conservatives. However, when you probe their understanding of that term you find an ideology largely shaped by Protestant doctrine, this is not a particularly broundbreaking insight. While they will "never" waver from their positions on abortion, LGBT rights or reasserting traditional mores (read: fundamentalist Christian culture), they are far less committed to the supposed "fiscal responsibility" or "freedom protection (at home and abroad)" espoused by their party colleagues. At least before the Teabagger fury, most favored serious financial reform and regulation, an even more progressive taxation system (where the top 10% pay 90%), interventions into healthcare to make it more affordable (even so far as to propose expansion of Medicare/Medicaid if not a public option), etc. My grandmother (who firmly believes our President is a follower of Islam and misses no opportunity to tout THIS FUCKING BOOK) proposed public works projects akin to the New Deal, which she witnessed first hand, in response to the current economic crisis. As we've all but etched into stone, most "conservatives" are one-issue voters and the coalition of the right as represented by the Republican party is fragile at best.

    How you can then surmise that the flimsiness of your own ideology/ies is attributable to "leftist propaganda" through media or otherwise and control of academia, besides every neoliberal economics department you come across (e.g., the important stuff which in turn shapes the rest of society), is beyond me.

  28. bb in GA Says:

    We on the Right tend to be Reptilian so our processing is simpler than y’all on the Left. I apologize and will struggle on.

    Context is everything WIAN? because you lamented about my “equation” of all the people and ideas you listed, but it was not an equation at all. The context was an earlier contributor carping about Gingrichian propaganda and I rebutted that with:

    ”Please spare me lectures on propaganda a la Speaker Grinch. The Left invented modern day wordsmithing to jerk people around. Marx, Woodrow Wilson and his hired soap box men, Lenin, Goebbels (who credited Wilson), and dare I leave out Serious Saul Alinsky.”

    Need I tediously point out that I was NOT saying Marx == Wilson == Lenin == …Alinsky? I was saying that they were all excellent propagandists for the Left and that propaganda indeed is a hallmark of the Left (whatever the stripe.)

    Initially I felt it was my fault for not being clearer since I’m Reptilian. However, I not so sure you don’t bear some of the burden.

    I respectfully stand by my “nonsense” that you can hold SOME Left positions and still be a Moderate (same with holding some Right positions). I think self reported affiliation has some value, but moonbat has pointed out that it is not absolute. I don’t agree that using any of this is absurd.

    You were really bloviating (more than half your post) in detailing what your Granny stands for. Why?

    On the Right we use two words to describe your Grandma – Social Conservative.

    She holds to very conservative principles on personal behavior and IDs herself as a Conservative while holding to Liberal and other fiscal policies.

    She represents one of the major coalition groups you mentioned that the Rs try to cobble together along with Fiscal Conservatives, and Foreign Policy/National Defense Conservatives into that fragile thing called a winner. You didn’t mention how Granny feels about National Defense. She might be a twofer.

    BTW, I am surprised that someone as astute as you didn’t recognize that Grandma represents a Standard Issue Working Class Democrat of two or three generations ago. The Southern White Variety tended to be long on Evangelical* Christianity while the Northern Variety tended to be a little more Catholic or areligious. You know, back when Democrats and Liberals were willing to kick ass and take names when necessary while not blaming America first for everything wrong in the world.

    I am not blame shifting. The “flimsiness” of our position (defined from your side or mine) is our own damn fault because we went to or remained asleep while the Left was hard at work. The “Devil” always gets my respect – he is on the case 24/7.

    //bb

    *”Fundamentalist” is a Liberal perversion (just like the vulgar slur of using Teabagger) that is not associated with its theological meanings, but rather used as a pejorative a la [ ANY RELIGION (except Gaia Worship) == Generally a waste of Mind, FUNDAMENTALISM – Islam, Christianity, Hinduism, etc == EVIL]

  29. bb in GA Says:

    Late Breaking…

    President Barack 'Unifier' Obama has included "teabagger" in re the Tea Party people in his public lexicon for the first time. Typical politician, he waited till y'all on the Left did the hard work of mainstreaming the term and is now jumping in front of the parade :-)

    //bb

  30. Steve from Canada Says:

    bb:

    I guess it must be lonely for y'all on the Right who can read, but I regret to inform you that this here party has ended. You should continue antagonizing us Lefties in the more recent posts.

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